Human Infrastructure of Toyota Production System

In order to produce world-class, quality automobiles at competitive price levels, Toyota has developed an integrated approach to production which manages equipment, materials, and people in the most efficient manner while ensuring a healthy and safe work environment (Toyota web page). The Toyota Production System is built on two main principles: Just-In-Time” production (the manufacturing and conveyance of only “what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount needed), and “Jidoka. (to the ability to stop production lines, by man or machine, in the event of problems such as equipment malfunction, quality issues, or late work).
Underlying this management philosophy and the entire Toyota production process is the concept that “Good Thinking Means Good Product. ” From the systems perspective, the human infrastructure is a set of processes and structures within TPS. Key elements of that human infrastructure are: a. Effective utilization of every member’s time. b. Total participation at all levels .
Encouragement of ingenuity Toyota has developed a system where the human infrastructure works harmoniously with the rest of the operating system. Some of the attributes of Toyota’s human infrastructure are intensive training, rapid problem solving skills, and teamwork. The expectation was that problems will be solved promptly, completely, and systematically. A review of the Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky, Plant case indicates the above key elements of human infrastructure were evident at various degrees.

TMM did receive intensive training from TMC, starting a year ahead of plant opening, one-on-one, as well as having TMC trainers remain in Kentucky for a few years. However, as indicated in the case, team member’s time was not always effectively utilized. In some tasks, such as when a car had a seat problem the team leader pulled the andon cord to signal Ok and then tagged the car to alert Quality and moving the car to the Code 1 clinic area to see if the problem was correctable there.
This process does not present value added and is in contradiction to Jidoka principles. As Friesen found out on his walk between Final 1 and Final 2, the workers interviewed only knew of a few seat incidents, which was contradictory to the data posted at work stations. This indicates very little involvement of the workers in the root cause investigation. The majority of defects indicate missing parts and material flaws. Application of the “Five Whys” exercise could very well indicate a supplier issue.
The TMM case does not mention of any instance where team member ingenuity was encouraged or demonstrated in solving any of the prevailing issues that are causing the Andons. The only instance where the group leader, Shirley Sargent, had reported the problem with the rear seat hook, months had elapsed and she yet had to receive an explanation or participate in possible solutions. Another issue that would need to be investigated and analyzed is the steady increase, and disparity of Andon pulls between the 1st and 2nd Shift Rear Seat teams.
This could indicate that non-standardized procedures are used or training deficiencies among the teams. Doug Friesen is correct in applying Jidoka in “going and seeing” the problem. There are key elements of the human infrastructure, such as: active encouragement of ingenuity, and worker participation in the solutions, that would help in the solutions. Also, a seat supplier kaizen is in order to identify NVA tasks, analyze the effectiveness of pulling problem cars off line for repairs, and prepare for the needs for the additional 18 seat variations expected for the Japan and Middle East markets.

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